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On Jewish Pitchers – And Some Departed Heroes

            Jason Marquis became the first Jewish pitcher in 31 years to collect 100
career victories. Pitching for the Washington Nationals this year, Marquis (pronounced Mar-kee) earned his first big-league win ten years ago by beating the Mets at
Shea Stadium while pitching for the Atlanta Braves. Jason, who’ll turn 33 on
August 2, has also pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Colorado
Rockies.

 

A native of Manhasset, New York, and raised in a Conservative Jewish home,
Jason had a smattering of Hebrew school and a bar mitzvah. When he collects
his 108th career victory, he’ll pass Steve Stone to place third on the all-time
Jewish pitcher career win list. Sandy Koufax, who won 165 games, is in second
place and Ken Holtzman is first with 174. Holtzman also leads all Jewish
pitchers in losses with 150 (Koufax lost just 87 games).

 

Steve Stone, presently in third place, had a 107-93 career record. Marquis had
93 losses when he won his 100th game.

 

Back to Koufax for a bit. It’s hard to fathom that he’s 75 years old now and has been retired for 45 years. Jews of my generation have vivid memories of Koufax and what his pitching prowess meant to us. I was a chaplain’s assistant at Fort Dix, New
Jersey, when Koufax was in his prime in his last couple of seasons and he was
the main topic of conversation when Jewish soldiers schmoozed.

 

* * * * *

 

Baseball recently lost several remarkable personalities. I was lucky
enough to have met Duke Snider and Harmon Killebrew several times on the baseball
beat. Both were real gentle men and gentlemen. They played in the pre-steroid
era when home runs weren’t tainted.

 

Killebrew, 74 when he died, had 573 home runs to his name over a
22-year career with the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City
Royals. He grew up in Idaho playing on the grass at the family home. When his
mother complained to his father about the boys using the lawn for their playing
field, Mr. Killebrew responded, “we’re raising boys, not grass.”

 

He was known as the Duke of Flatbush when he played for the Brooklyn
Dodgers and was the favorite player of many a Jewish boy in Brooklyn in the
1950s – including Rabbi Paysach Krohn.

 

Snider, 84 when he died, compiled a .295 lifetime batting average and 407
home runs in his 18 seasons (1947-1964) with Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers,
New York Mets and San Francisco Giants. Snider was at the top of his game with Brooklyn as he topped 40 or more home runs for five consecutive years (1953-1957).

 

From 1953 through 1956, Snider averaged 42 homers, 124 RBI and a .320
average. The Duke, fittingly, was the last player to hit a home run in the
history of Ebbets Field (1957).

 

For those of us who collected baseball cards in the 1950s, Gil McDougald and
Marty Marion were familiar names and faces.

 

McDougald, who spent his ten-year major-league career with the Yankees as an
infielder, died at age 82. A .276 lifetime hitter, he was a valuable member of the
Yankees, helping the club to eight World Series trips during his time in New York – all under manager Casey Stengel.

 

Marty Marion was 93 when he died. The slim, smooth-fielding shortstop spent
his entire l3-year career in St. Louis (11 with the Cardinals and two years with
the Browns of blessed memory). Marion also managed both St. Louis teams and the
Chicago White Sox.

 

 

 To order Irwin Cohen’s book about an Orthodox Jew in the baseball field, send
a check for $19.95, payable to Irwin Cohen, to: 25921 Stratford Place, Oak
Park, Mich. 48237. The book contains numerous photos of legendary players taken
by Cohen
.

About the Author: Author, columnist, and public speaker Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before working for a major league team and becoming the first Orthodox Jew to receive a World Series ring. His column appears the second week of each month and he can be reached in his suburban Detroit dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.


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